We have reached the official unofficial halfway point of the baseball season and a small break from action for fantasy baseball players. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) the world of closers never sleeps. Despite it being a fairly quiet week in Reliever Land, there still are a few situations that we are keeping close tabs on and can update heading into the break. Before we get there, just a reminder that you can keep up with the latest movement with the Closer Grid. Now, on to the news.
Bud Norris is still in control for the Angels
When we last spoke, we talked about how the Angels bullpen was at full strength for the first time all season, and it was unclear how they were going to handle things. It was my assumption (and most others’ as well) that Bud Norris would remain as the team’s closer given all of his success. However, that was not made clear by the team and it stood to reason that Norris would have a relatively short leash with Cam Bedrosian and David Hernandez, among others, lurking behind him. Those concerns were put to rest for now after Norris has looked as strong as ever since returning from his injury. It’s only been three appearances, but the Angels closer has tossed three scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list and has five strikeouts to two walks. It’s worth keeping an eye on this situation and considering Bedrosian as a decent handcuff for the time being, but Norris has done enough in 2017 that a change is far from imminent.
Seung-hwan Oh takes the reins back in St. Louis
After a 2016 that saw him become one of the premier relievers in the game, Seung-hwan Oh has consistently been one of the most disappointing closers in baseball. He’s managed to hang onto the closer job in St. Louis for the entire season, but he’s felt Trevor Rosenthal breathing down his neck throughout the year. Toward the end of June into the beginning of July, it finally seemed as if the two would at least be splitting duties after Oh finished June by allowing runs in five of his last eight appearances. Oh has been better over his last few outings, though, and it seems like he has control back for the job. He’s still the more valuable fantasy asset in the Cardinals bullpen, but don’t go dropping Rosenthal just yet. Oh’s grip on the job still isn’t all that firm, and a slow start to the second half could result in a quick change at the back of this unit.
Jim Johnson is struggling in Atlanta
For most of this season, I don’t think most realized how surprisingly solid Jim Johnson had been as the Braves closer. Really, he’s been quietly outstanding since the start of 2016. Things have taken a step back over the past few outings, though, and now there are concerns about Johnson’s future. He’s blown two save chances already in July and he owns a 5.40 ERA since the beginning of June while blowing a third of his save chances in that time. To make matters even more complicated in Atlanta, they recently placed setup man Arodys Vizcaino on the disabled list. That leaves Jose Ramirez as second in line in the Braves’ bullpen. Given the likelihood that Johnson either pitches his way out of the closer role or (more likely) is traded, having a handcuff in Atlanta’s bullpen could be a smart idea. I wouldn’t go running for Ramirez just yet since we don’t know how much time Vizcaino will miss, but this is a situation to keep an eye on over the next week or two.
No More Clarity in Texas
The previous time we spoke, the Rangers had just taken Matt Bush out of his exclusive ninth inning role and decided to run with a committee for their closer. It was expected to be a large group headed by Keone Kela, but then he was placed on the disabled list. Jose LeClerc is now expected to be the favorite for saves in Texas. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any save chances to prove this theory correct. Given recent performances, I would still suspect LeClerc is the one to own, although Bush has pitched fairly well of late and he could be back in the mix sooner than some may expect.
• A.J. Ramos had a tough week in Miami, and between the Marlins likelihood to sell at the deadline and his tendency to go through cold stretches, it could be time to stash Kyle Barraclough for saves down the stretch. David Phelps would also be a candidate to take saves in Miami, but he’s another possibility to be moved at the deadline.
• Hector Neris also had a rough week, and if the Phillies weren’t sellers it could be time to look at Pat Neshek as a candidate for saves. They are going to be sellers, though, and Neshek is almost certain to be shipped off before the end of the month.
• Alex Colomé had a good week, which was encouraging to see after some recent struggles. He’s taken a step back from his great 2016, but he’s looking better now. The Rays are in a tight divisional race and that may make Colomé’s leash shorter, but the competition of Brad Boxberger isn’t enough to make me worried about a change in the near future.